In this early stage of presidential politics and buzz-making for the 2008 presidential election, two names currently blot out all others. Or, at the very least, they would seem to frame the debate and will have to be willfully shoved aside to create a new picture.
Therefore, I don’t think it’s too early to ask if the hypothetical presidential match-up of Sen. John McCain (R – Arizona) versus Sen. Hillary Clinton (D – New York) is a foregone conclusion.
Personally, I don’t think it’s foregone – at least not yet. But major ripples in the political waters will have to take place to enter other names into the debate. Of course, Howard Dean was hardly known by most people until he screamed (if you’ll pardon with the term) out of obscurity and into the foregone category of Democratic politics in 2003 and early 2004. Then, he slipped back into the pack before finally installing himself as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Keep an eye on McCain and Clinton, and you’ll get to see some fascinating dynamics at work. McCain is now tacking right as he knows he is wildly popular with independents and even many Democrats. After outraging some conservatives via his leadership role in the Gang of 14 compromise on filibusters and averting the “nuclear option,” John McCain is now talking tough on Supreme Court nominations. As primary season approaches, I’ve no doubt we’ll hear much about McCain’s longstanding anti-abortion position as well.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has been staking out middle ground for a number of months now. Taking a page from her husband’s political playbook, she recently spoke out against sexual and violent content in video games. She also received a great deal of publicity for softening her stance on the abortion issue. It was exactly these sorts of Small Government initiatives that assisted Bill Clinton to a two-term presidency.
So, can a politician in either party knock one of these potential and likely candidates off before momentum (see: Big Mo and John Kerry’s whirlwind 2004 primary campaign) sweeps them right into the ’08 conventions?
For McCain, the challenge will likely come from the right. The only moderate candidate with the name recognition and firepower to take the Vietnam War hero on is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. The Achilles heel may well be Rudy’s pro-choice position on abortion, which could well kill him among the social conservatives who vote heavily in the GOP primaries. That said, McCain is no favorite of the far-right as well. That’s why a strong social conservative and/or neo-con is the best bet to overtake John McCain.